Life Lesson 14: I Call Bullshit

Yesterday: You Always Have You
Today: I Call Bullshit
You need to be called out on your bullshit from time to time. It’s healthy!

The only people who can afford to be told their shit don't stank are high-powered, highly paid, very wealthy celebrities and even THEY need to be told every once in a while that they too are actually human.

If you can't think of one person in the world you trust to tell you when you've messed up, you need new people. There's got to be at least one individual who can tell you that you actually do look terrible when you wear that dress, or that no, your new idea isn't as awesome as you think it is, or hey -- you have snot hanging out of your nose, and you not get mad. At least not "end the relationship" mad.

Why? Because we all make mistakes. And if you're surrounded only by people who will let you believe the delusion that you're not making mistakes, you won't grow. WE GROW FROM OUR MISTAKES! It's true. The whole reason you make mistakes is so you can learn not to do that again. The best is when you can call yourself out on bullshit. When you can do something outrageous and look at it, shrug and say "my bad" and then do better the next time.

Don't be afraid of all that. Doesn't make you less awesome, it makes you more awesome, it puts you oh so close to getting everything. Mistakes make the best stories, anyway.

Tomorrow: Scared Money Don't Make Money


Life Lesson 13: You Always Have You

Yesterday: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic
Today: You Always Have You
Moving cities does not cure unhappiness. Most of the time.

Check in the mirror my friend,
No lies will be told then...
You cannot run, for you can't hide from you

When I heard this song the first time, it was during Christmas break of my 6th grade year. It changed my little 11 yr old life.

What I'm getting at might not seem obvious right away, so go with me.

There are two possible centers of control. External and internal. Those who operate exclusively from an external locus of control are the ones who believe that there is only fate. In the end, you have no choices, who you are, where you are, what you do are all pre-determined and though you may think you decided, for example, to go back to school, the universe (or something else) actually worked together to make sure you'd make that decision.

Those who operate exclusively from an internal locus of control, believe you and only you determine how things will turn out. There are no external factors. If you want it, you can have it and if you don't have it it's because you didn't work hard enough.

Healthy folks will fall somewhere in the middle understanding that we have to play the cards we're dealt, but that doesn't mean that when you're dealt a bad hand you give up and throw in the towel.

Sometimes, it's just time to go. You've lived in a city for too long. I left Washington, DC 2.5 yrs ago, a city many people would love to live and work in, because it was just time to go. I didn't want to be there anymore. That was it. Maybe you don't see room for growth for yourself or you're no longer enjoying the city. Maybe everything about the city reminds you of bad things. You're having a hard time making friends. Or, maybe, you just want to see and experience something different. In and of itself, wanting to move is not a bad thing.

If we tried, we could come up with several scenarios where moving cures unhappiness. Like, moving to a city to be with a significant other. Separation can create unhappiness and obviously moving cures that right up. But that's obvious and that sort of unhappiness is situational. The true unhappiness? The kind that starts in your soul and won't leave you alone? That's personal and it will follow you because it's a part of you.

Happiness is such a fickle thing. You have it and then you don't. Try as you might, it can be hard to determine exactly what it is and how you can keep it (though, once you have it -- really have it -- you won't lose it). While fresh starts can be the jolt to your life you need, happiness isn't a thing to be found as much as it's a thing to be created.

Happiness is something you have to find in yourself, for yourself. If you're unhappy with yourself, it doesn't matter where you go or where you live or what job you take -- changing unhappiness starts in yourself. If you're unhappy because you don't like who you are or what you're doing, you probably won't like those things when you move to a new city, either. Why? You can't run from you. You are the one person who will always be with you. It is why, as I said before, you have to be your own best cheerleader.

If you want to move, do it. But take stock of why, exactly and be honest. Yes, maybe the new city will have more dating options for you or yes, maybe the new city will have new job options for you. Sure, the new city might offer you opportunities that your current city could never. But will you be unhappy if not? Is it the city that needs to change or is it your life? Yeah, maybe a move will be the change your life needs but know that before you pack up everything and start all over. Fresh starts aren't as easy as they sound.

I don't want to come off as if to say, "make sure you have a damn good reason to move" because you DON'T HAVE TO HAVE ONE. Risk is a part of life. Sometimes, the only answer is to just jump. This isn't about knowing the end before you begin, it's about making sure your risks are calculated and have purpose; if you've determined that you're unhappy AND you think the best thing to do is move, make sure that there is truly a tangible reason why a new city would fix what is usually an internal issue. Otherwise, look for ways to make that change first. There's nothing worse than being miserable in a brand new city with no one to call.

Tomorrow: I Call Bullshit


Life Lesson 12: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic

Yesterday: The World Owes You Nothing
Today: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic
Hard work is necessary to achieve anything in this life. If you’re wondering why you’re not where you want to be in life, you should consider examining your work habits.
My mom likes to tell me that when she moved from the small town she grew up in, her oldest brother told her that if she ever needed anything at all, all she had to do was call. It was, for the most part, the classic "you can always come home" pep talk. However, my mom likes to tell me this story because of the caveat he gave: unless you're in jail for stealing.

Your work ethic, in my family, is one of the most important things to build up. When I think about the family members that the matriarchs and patriarchs don't particularly care for, the ones I like to say don't make the "golden" list, it's all the ones who everybody has decided doesn't have a work ethic quite up to par. Why? Because to have anything you have to work hard for it, as we discussed yesterday and as far as my family is concerned, if you're not willing to work for something, you're a suspicious and not to be trusted individual. He who won't work, won't eat and all that other jazz.

Make no mistake about it, all the things we've discussed so far is work. Goal setting, having ambition, finding motivation... all these things take work, they take time, they take thought, they take effort. Work does not always look like a 9-5. It isn't always done at a desk from a computer screen. But no matter what form it takes, work is always evident.

That's why when, 10 years post high school, you have nothing to show for the last 10 years, people wonder why. It may be easy to blame a whole host of situations for why you haven't achieved much. Maybe the primary one is that in the grand scheme of things, 10 years isn't a long time to do anything. But you just gotta question the work ethic of someone who has 3650 days to do something and doesn't do anything. It's not really a judgement as much as it's a simple question. If you had a goal and after 10 years are no closer to it, then what were you doing?

That's what I think about several people I know who have been swearing they're going to have and achieve x and y things but after years of talk are still in the very same position they were before. It's why one of my criteria for my future mate is someone with ambition; someone who has a goal and is constantly doing something to put themselves closer to that goal. Your work ethic speaks volumes about you as a person. People who expect everything to come to them can't be trusted.

Or as my family might say, if you won't work, you probably will steal.

Tomorrow: You Always Have You


Life Lesson 11: The World Owes You Nothing

Friday: Maybe You're the Common Denominator
Today: The World Owes You Nothing
You can’t go into this world thinking you’re owed something. If you do, you’re going to be permanently unhappy.
One of my all time favorite quotes comes from the great American writer Mark Twain: "...the world owes you nothing; it was here first."

I think one of the fastest ways to get yourself into a jam is to have an unwarranted sense of entitlement. To think that just because you are, you will receive. For the vast majority of us, there is little we will get without having worked for it in some fashion. Even those for who it seems everything is given and nothing is expected, I assure you there is some sacrifice somewhere in their life to have and maintain whatever it is. Nothing, my friends, is free.

And if you're walking around thinking that everything you want will just fall from the sky, the disappointment you're going to feel when you get to the end of that walk with nothing to show for it may, in fact, be insurmountable and indescribable. Trying to find the shortcut, expecting someone else to work for you and hand you all of the benefits... that just won't ever work. Do the work, earn your keep.

I hate the bootstraps meme that is so popular and has been so popular in American rhetoric, especially political rhetoric. I hate it because it's not true. Very few people have or will ever accomplish anything great (or even not so great) with no help at all. That's just not how us humans are wired, to do things all alone. However, there is something magical about the idea -- and this idea is why, though it may in fact be literally and figuratively killing us, our country will hold on to Capitalism until it is pried from our cold, dead hands -- that if you just work hard, you can have anything you want. If that's all it takes, then the possibilities are endless, which is an intoxicatingly exciting thought, if you ask me.

While you will need help, your bootstraps won't be enough, you can work hard enough to achieve just about anything. You can have whatever you want, including happiness, you just can't think that it is owed to you simply because you breathe. Anything worth having is worth working for, if only to be able to say, on the back end, I earned this.

Tomorrow: Find Yourself Some Work Ethic


Life Lesson 10: Maybe You're The Common Denominator

Yesterday: Respect Yourself
Today: Maybe You're the Common Denominator
If you find yourself losing jobs, losing friends, and losing relationships constantly, maybe it’s time to consider the possibility that you could be the problem.

One of the realest conversations I ever had with the BiFF was one that ended by him saying "I don't know, Ashley. Maybe it's you. You're the common factor in all this..." I was complaining, as had become common, about all the drama I was in. For years people asked me, how is it you stay in drama but it's never "your fault"? When he said that to me, I had to admit that while maybe I didn't cause the drama, I didn't do much to try to stay out of it either. I was complicit in the mess and I had to own up to that.

I see people complain and commiserate on facebook all the time. Life sucks, nothing's going right, but let them tell it -- it's the universe who hates them, not their messed up, backwards decision making. Sometimes, sometimes, it's just you. It's not the world, it's not this guy over here... it's you. You are the reason YOU can't get ahead. Which, really, is kinda awesome. That means that YOU are in control of when you'll start winning and stop losing.

Even if you're not completely to blame, you share some of it. It never hurts when things are going (or have gone) awry to ask yourself if there was anything at all you could've done differently. The answer is rarely going to be "no" and if it is often "no," that's gonna be a good sign you have a hard time being objective. Ask a friend to help.

Learning to accept responsibility for your actions is part of growing up. You should have it mastered by, oh, age 10. Those over age 10 who still can't say "yup, that was me... I screwed up..." are doing it wrong and are very frustrating people to deal with. Those tend to be the same people who have a hard time apologizing. Fact is, we all make mistakes. It's not a bad thing to be sorry for making a mistake. It's not a bad thing to admit you messed up and it's not a bad thing to admit that the reason everything around you is on fire is because you set it on fire.

Stop dating the same kind of people if those kind of people never work out. Stop going after the same job if you never get a callback. Stop. Making. The. Same. Dumb. Decisions. Over. And. Over. It's really that simple. Take control of your life and see don't it change your life.

Monday: The World Owes You Nothing; It Was Here First


Life Lesson 9: Respect Yourself

Yesterday: Turn Jealousy into Ambition
Today: Respect Yourself
Self-respect is one of the greatest gifts you could ever give yourself but it’s also one of the hardest things to obtain.

The really bad things we do to ourselves like, pick bad people to let into our lives, stay in messed up relationships, work shitty jobs (without looking for other employment), drink too much too often, eat bad food, etc... is all because we don't think we deserve better; we don't respect ourselves.

It is HARD to respect yourself all the time. I don't care what anyone says. Doubt will always creep in, someone will always do or say something to make you think you're not worthy of only the best. It is constant work. You do not achieve self respect and then always have it. Each day you make conscious decisions to uplift your spirit, to do your best work, to respect yourself.

I've read people who suggest the fake it till you make it plan. Act as if you believe in yourself until you do. That might work.

But personally, I've found remembering all the wonderful things about myself works just as well. Surely anyone with all these great qualities is deserving of the utmost respect, especially from herself.

I'm not there with the self-respect. I still have the disease to please (as Mama O put it) and that can sometimes overtake my efforts at self-respect. Sometimes I put people ahead of myself who do not deserve to be there. But it's a work in progress and I am trying, I do see the goal and I reward myself with small wins when I do it successfully.

Give yourself your best every day. It's only right.

Tomorrow: Maybe You're The Common Denominator


Life Lesson 8: Turn Jealousy into Ambition

Yesterday: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served
Today: Turn Jealousy into Ambition
Turn your jealousy about your peers’ success into ambition.

This life lesson is the other side of the "let your haters be your motivators" coin. Let your own hate motivate? I don't know, we can find a catchy phrase for it later.

Jealousy is such an easy emotion or culmination of emotions. It's petty, too -- petty because it's such a useless emotion in and of itself. I'm not saying you can't be jealous, but know that you shouldn't stay in that too long. All that time you waste wishing you had someone else's life or money or relationship or education or job or fame or WHATEVER you could be working to have your own.

Instead of being jealous you could be asking them questions about how they have what they have. Or you could be taking notes on what they do or you could be taking notes out of a book. Hell. Who knows. But every minute wasted wishing is a minute not used to have. See what I did there?

I'm not saying copy them. In fact, please don't. Imitation may be the most sincere form of flattery but it's annoying and disgusting all the same. What I am saying is find out what they did right. What were all their little wins? How did they manage to work hard and achieve despite all the things life has out there to keep you down and out?

Sometimes we don't have to turn jealousy into ambition as much as we need to turn it into perspective. Focusing on everything someone else has that you don't can make it really hard to see all the things you do have. Sure, your best friend has a great job and makes more money than you. But you have a family and a full life. Not to say she doesn't or is less than you if she doesn't, but the point is, that's something you have that many wish they did.

Kill the jealousy. It's a waste of time. Instead, see others having what you want as proof that you too can have it with some hard work and attention to detail

Tomorrow: Respect Yourself


Life Lesson 7: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served

Yesterday: Choose Your Motivation Wisely
Today: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served.
Constantly feeling guilt and shame about the “bad” things you’ve done only insures that you’ll do them again.

Guilt usually holds its' roots in unfinished business. We most often feel worst about things we didn't handle well and now can't handle at all. True enough, no one has created a time machine outside of tv and movie land so we can't ever go back and undo or redo what we've messed up, but that's not the only way to handle things. Sometimes, a simple conversation seeking forgiveness will help assuage that.

But asking for and oftentimes giving forgiveness is very hard. So we sit around and we mope about over an issue that we can't change and don't want to handle. But if you don't take the time an do the work of getting over whatever it is that you're feeling guilty over, how do you learn from your mistakes? If you can't understand why you did something because you refuse to consider the choices that led to the mistake, how do you know you won't do it again?

I mentioned forgiveness earlier. I think it's something that is incredibly hard to do; in fact, right now I'm working on how to forgive for myself. Have you ever sat and really thought about what forgiveness looks like? How you know you've given it or received it? Right now I'm working from the basis that forgiveness is deciding to, despite what a person has done, treat them as if they haven't done that thing (while never forgetting that they did). Put another way: I'm trying to work on forgiving someone for misusing my friendship and for acting entitled to me and what I offer. I could treat her a certain way because of that -- I could deny her my friendship, I could significantly change the way I relate to her in this friendship -- but if I truly forgive her, I won't necessarily do those things out of spite or anger; I may only do them to keep myself safe, if I do them at all. I would stop harboring ill feelings toward her and stop looking for ways to make her pay, I would let bygones be bygones and, as safely as I can, treat her just as I had before I was wronged. I can do that and still not give her my friendship back or even my trust or time. There are plenty of people I am very kind to who are not my friends. Until I decided to define forgiveness in that way, I thought I had forgiven her (even though she never asked for it) but those angry feelings kept creeping up; I had to realize that perhaps I hadn't let go, perhaps I hadn't forgiven.

And larger, I felt some guilt about how everything had gone down. How I'd allowed her into my space and not taken better care to protect myself from the hurt. How, when I'd finally had enough, I still allowed her callousness to make me do and say things I never intended to. In turn, I allowed that guilt to influence me to let her back in my space even when everything about that decision felt wrong and bad. The guilt was the louder voice though -- I had to, I had messed up and this was the only way to make it right.

When guilt is the loudest voice in the room, you're guaranteed to make a mistake. You can't think or see the situation clearly as guilt acts like a fog. Forgive yourself for whatever you've done, and THEN make a decision. And if you're really doing the work of forgiving yourself, prepare for it to take awhile. Luckily for you, the only thing time will bring in such a situation is more information and more clarity.

Tomorrow: Turn jealousy into ambition


Life Lesson 6: Choose Your Motivation Wisely

Friday: It's Ok to Have Boundaries
Today: Choose Your Motivation Wisely
If you buy a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit you and plan to use it as inspiration to lose weight, you will never end up wearing it.

I'm interested in motivation. Always. Ask me a question and the first thought I have is, "why do they want to know?" It will often influence my answer. I'm especially interested in how to help people change what motivates them because I'm discovering that skill will be the cornerstone in my career. Working with, essentially, at-risk youth (which is code for poor and minority, usually black, but increasingly Hispanic), trying to help them find intrinsic motivation is tricky. Theory says you start with extrinsic motivation, like McDonald's for every week of good behavior and then help them to see how good behavior is helpful to them in other ways. You slowly remove the extrinsic motivator as their intrinsic motivation increases and wa-la you have a student ready to tackle the world. Or so says theory.

Sometimes I think we choose motivating factors that aren't actually motivating. That too small pair of pants in the closet -- are you really going to lose weight just to wear them? When you were cleaning out your closet and set them to the side, did you really think that would work or were you hoping? I have to confess, I have several "too-small" items in my closet that when I was cleaning I set to the side telling myself that one day soon I'd fit in them, but I think I really set them aside hoping they would magically increase in size more than I thought I'd actually do the work of losing the weight.

Perhaps we do this to ourselves because it's easier. A silent pair of too-small pants in the closet is a lot easier to deal with than a personal trainer. Maybe because the silent pair of pants isn't actually supposed to be a motivator, but a reward. In working with my kids I've found that you have to reward them in short-run instances and slowly work your way up. In other words, it's not as simple as two weeks of rewarding them with McDonald's and they suddenly get intrinsic motivation. On the contrary, it could take months. And the first time, you can't ask a child who's been misbehaving badly in class to go a whole week with good behavior so they can get McDonald's. Even those addictive fries aren't reason enough. Instead, you let them earn smaller rewards faster. One day of good behavior might get them free time at the end of the day. Three days earns them some candy. And then bam -- they've made it a week and they get that McDonald's. You give them small wins so that they slowly learn they can win.

The real reason those too-small pants (or shirt, or skirt, or whatever) aren't motivating isn't really because they're silent. It's because they're a reward for the 30 lbs line -- the end of the line in fact. What's the motivation for losing pound 1? The pants are the McDonald's. What's the free time at the end of the day or the candy? Where are your small wins? You see, the small wins are what motivates you -- things that motivate you convince you to keep going, to keep trying. A reward that comes at the end is just a reward; the rewards in the middle? Those are motivators.

I keep talking about this in terms of weight loss, but you can truly apply it to anything. You have to choose your motivation wisely and you have to give yourself small wins. Many of us are adept at intrinsic motivation and we know that hard work pays off in the long run but there are sometimes those things that require a lot of run; choose your motivation in such a way that you have a reason to keep going even when you can't make out the light at the end of the tunnel. Small wins keep the spirit high.

Tomorrow: Guilt Is A Dish Best Not Served


Life Lesson 5: It's Ok To Have Boundaries

Yesterday: People Love You, Then They Don't
Today: It's Ok To Love From A Distance.
You are not obligated to be close to a family member. If any kind of relationship in your life is toxic, it’s in your best interest to establish boundaries.

Establishing boundaries is one of the hardest things to learn how to do, if you're not already one of those people who can set boundaries in your sleep. Chalk it up to your zodiac sign, your gender, your age, your race, your sexual orientation, your attachment style... whatever you want. Some of us can, some of us have to learn how. I'm in the latter group.

I'm actually a boundary pusher. I'm always looking for the line and the limits; the out of bounds. In turn, it can make it difficult for me to set boundaries with people I love. Yes, even the toxic ones. Hell, ESPECIALLY the toxic ones.

Framing this conversation around family makes a brutal point: everyone -- EVERYONE -- needs boundaries. Even your family. Facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram and all the other wonderful forms of social media we love to enjoy have only served to make boundary setting that much harder. You know the struggle: the people who want to vent on facebook about their relationships but then get mad when they hear folks are talking about their relationships.

Boundaries really do keep you safe; they establish norms and rules. My mom always tells me, you show people how to treat you and boundary-setting is one of the tools you have to show people how to treat you. From what time is ok to call you, to how to speak to you -- let me tell you from experience: don't assume people have common sense and will apply it to your relationship. They don't, they won't and it'll be you with egg on your face.

I'll never forget: someone I really admired got into a serious relationship and posted several things about it on facebook (this was awhile ago, back when this sort of thing didn't seem to happen as frequently). She broke up with this guy and obviously had to change her relationship status. I thought she and I had a pretty good relationship, so I didn't think anything of commenting on her wall that I was disappointed to see she had broken up with him as I had gathered from facebook, she was really into him.

Shortly after my post, she sent me a SCATHING facebook message admonishing me for my post. She said angrily, "this is why I hate Facebook. Everyone thinks they can comment." Aside from hurting my feelings she confused me. What boundary had I crossed? That changed our friendship -- we didn't speak for awhile and when we did, she acted as if nothing happened which only furthered my assumption that she attacked me out of anger with her situation, not necessarily with me.

Boundaries are important because they give both people a set of rules to operate from. But you have to be careful about your implied boundaries. In the previously mentioned relationship, from my perspective, AND the fact that she had posted frequently on her relationship on Facebook, I assumed it wasn't a big deal for me to make my comment. Turns out, it was.

Toxic people can often be the hardest to set boundaries with. Sometimes that's precisely what makes them toxic. So far, the only method I've found that works is to take everything away and give it back a little at a time. The one time I didn't do that -- when I needed to set boundaries with someone who wasn't good for me -- they took advantage of the small openings I left and it just created more mess. They felt entitled to things they weren't entitled to and I ended up having to cut off contact ANYWAY just to make the solid point that I wasn't playing around. It's so much easier when you make the point on the front end instead of the back end.

Set boundaries because they're healthy, helpful and important. Respect other people's boundaries because it's the right thing to do and they have a right to have them. Remember, you don't have to understand AND agree to support something.

Monday: Choose your motivation wisely


Life Lesson 4: People Love You, Then They Don't

Yesterday: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader
Today: People Love You, Then They Don't
Human beings are fickle. We go to bed in love and wake up feeling trapped. Sometimes a relationship ending has nothing to do with you. Sometimes it has everything. Either way, it’s a waste of time to feel unlovable afterwards because chances are you will fall in love again. The main thing standing in your way is not your perceived shortcomings but fear.
Right on time for Valentine's Day, eh?

While writing these, I came across a draft of a post that I start by saying "I probably am not ready to post this..." I go on to talk about feelings of inadequacy at the end of a relationship. The repetition of defeat. Sometimes looking back on a failed relationship and seeing all that I did wrong and kicking myself for it, while other times looking back and realizing that I did all I knew to do and hopefully next time I'll do better.

Fear drives so much of what we do. It's not something to learn to get rid of, necessarily, as much as it's something to learn to keep in check. Fear certainly cannot rule your life, but it can remind you to be cautious and to make better decisions. The trick is learning the difference. Fear runs your life when you think in absolutes. You can be aware of your fears, consider how to mitigate them and still move forward. You don't have to feel sure about every choice you make -- some of the best outcomes were born of unsure decisions.

Relationships, romantic, friendship, familial even, fail all the time. We fall in love, we fall out of love we fall back in love. Sometimes with the same person over and over, other times with different people. It happens. It's hard. It sucks. We learn and we get back on that horse. But what you cannot waste your time on is a whole lot of "I'm not good enoughs" and those are easy to fall into. If you're anything like me, casual dating just isn't your style. Not because there's anything wrong with casual dating but because, again if you're like me, you go balls to the wall in any relationship that matters. When you put that much of you out there and into something only to have it fail, it is so easy to think that it's you. And maybe it is, but you know what? Dwelling on what you can't change leaves no time to fix what you can and get ready for the next opportunity.

When I have those moments of clarity -- looking back on a relationship and seeing how hard I tried, it can actually be a bit uplifting. No one likes to fail but knowing you failed while trying your hardest can bring some relief. If you let fear run your love choices, you'll never be happy and you will ALWAYS (this is a guarantee) be thinking back on all the things you could've, should've, would've done differently.

And one more thing: it does take 2 to tango, but relationships end all the time simply because one person just didn't want to anymore. It takes two yeses and one no, that's 7 days a week, 365 days a year. So don't feel like the end is all your fault. If it looks like it wasn't, then maybe it wasn't. Learn your lessons and keep it moving. Whoever that person was that left you hanging will be back. They always come back and when they do, let it serve as a reminder that the only person's choices you control is yours.

Tomorrow: It's Ok To Have Boundaries


Life Lesson 3: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader

Yesterday: Your Happiness is YOUR Happiness
Today: Be Your Own Best Cheerleader
You have to advocate for yourself because this world is full of shitheads who will take advantage of you. No one can afford to be helpless. You have to learn how to be a (polite) pain in the ass to get what you want.
I don't remember where I first heard this idea of being your own best cheerleader, maybe it was Oprah who taught it to me, but it took me awhile to get it.

I mean I got it right away. No one will cheer for you, laud your successes, highlight your greatness, as well as you do. Not even your mama, and for many of us, that's saying something. You're the one who really knows how hard you work, how smart you are, how fast you can go. Just you. You're the only one with you all the time, every day. Others may see potential where you don't, but you're the only person who can really get yourself to your potential.

It's often said that for women, this particular life advice can be hard to learn. We are often conditioned to let others take the spotlight. In fact, in the interview for the job I now have, when asked what one of my weaknesses is, I admitted that I often will allow others to take credit for my work in the interest of getting a job done or making the team look good. I've been blessed to now work with people who often remind me to take credit for my work; however in the past, I've worked with people who were more than happy to take credit for my ideas and thoughts.

Even now, I watch people I know and love copy the things that I say and do, and pass them off as their own original thought. I don't usually say anything because why? What's the point? The point is, we live in a world where people always want to know your value. Even in personal situations, people want to know why they should keep you around and if you are talking about you, who else can you trust to do it?

Yeah, I know, you don't wanna be that kid. The self-important, self-aggrandizing kid everyone hates. That's not what this life lesson is about. There's a difference between making people think you can do something you can't and making sure people know that that great thing that happened just now was because of you. It's important to remind people of your worth because it only serves to remind yourself. Ultimately, getting recognition for being great is 1 part being great and 2 parts talking about said greatness. It's uncomfortable, it's awkward, for some it's annoying as hell but it's NECESSARY when you want something. Closed mouths don't get fed, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and all those other adages we know and say but have a hard time putting into practice.

At church, our pastor often says "you are valuable, your dreams are valuable, your mind is valuable, your body is valuable." We make jokes about that line from The Help where Aibileen tells the little girl in her care "you is kind, you is smart, you is important" but these are the things that are important to remember about ourselves and most of us don't have an Aibileen in our lives to tell us that every day and make us repeat it so we have to be our own Aibileens, our own cheerleaders.

Tomorrow: People Love You, Then They Don't.


Life Lesson 2: Your Happiness is YOUR Happiness

Yesterday: You can't change people.
Your definition of happiness is different from other people’s. What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for them so stop being a Judge Judy about your friends’ life decisions.

Let me tell you why getting this will make your life a WHOLE LOT EASIER: if you quit worrying about all the stuff other people are doing that you wouldn't do, you'd free up a lot of your time to do more of the stuff you like to do. You know what else? You'll have stronger friendships. I can think of 2 or 3 people right now that I already know I can't tell certain stuff to them because they get judgy and they can't EVER just think "well, I wouldn't do that, but if you like it, I love it." Supporting someone's decision is NOT tantamount to agreeing with it.

Of course this goes back to what we discussed yesterday. Oftentimes this issue rears it's head most noticeably when we're talking about people we love making decisions we think are bad. But guess what? Bad for me is not always bad for you. Two individuals will always have different life experiences that influence them differently and cause them to prioritize things in different ways. There's nothing wrong with that.

Trying to play judge on your friend's choices is stupid. Not only is it annoying, but it can be potentially alienating. As long as some folks have known me, it still surprises people the way I choose to do certain things, or THAT I choose to do certain things. I still have family members baffled as to why I didn't go to law school, friends who don't get why I left DC to move back to Nashville, professional acquaintances who think I'd be putting my skills to better use in a different setting...

I don't actually have to explain myself to anyone -- not right now anyway -- and so it also follows that no one needs to understand or agree with my choices so long as those choices aren't illegal or otherwise harmful. Same goes for you, dear reader and friend. You do not have to understand or agree with anyone's choices, so long as they are not illegal or otherwise harmful. It's not your place, it's not your job, it's just not necessary. What motivates you may not be what motivates another person and that is a-ok.

What's also a-ok is asking someone why they're doing what they're doing. If they're interested in sharing, you might learn something. You might find some perspective you need. Then again, so may they. There's a place for genuine interest in why people do what they do, but that genuine interest is always going to be sans judgement.

Put another way, if you give up trying to "get" everything, in the sense that you understand AND agree, it'll change your life. You don't ever have to both understand and agree with anything for it to be right. Life is not a zero sum game, stuff is most often gray -- there aren't as many black and white decisions as we'd like to think there are. Understand and agree with THAT and find yourself in a better place.

Tomorrow's Life Lesson: Be Your Best Cheerleader


Life Lesson 1: You Can't Change People

Our first topic from the 19 Life Lessons You Should've Learned By Now is:
You either have to accept people for who they are or not at all because changing them will be next to impossible. Seriously. Good luck with trying to mold people into what you want them to be. It’s a recipe for disaster. Just know when to cut your losses or stay. Don’t get lost in the in-between.
Let me start by saying this: if you don't learn ANY OTHER LESSON of the next 19, please learn this one.

People are exactly who they are. You expecting them to be somebody else, just because you think it would be better only does a disservice to you.

I know. I get it. A.Sizzle understands. When you know somebody, and you love somebody, and you see all of their potential flying out the window every day, it's damn frustrating. You just want to shake them and scream "please, for the love of all that is good and holy, JUST BE BETTER." But it doesn't work that way.

A week or so ago, a friend was looking for some advice on how to get her sister to make better life decisions. The sister was spending money poorly, cheating on her boyfriend, etc... My friend was frustrated because aside from seeing how her sister's decisions were effecting her poorly now, she could also already begin to see how her sister's decisions would end up messing with HER (my friend's) pockets later on down the line.

I told her, "well, you can really only do 2 things. 1, highlight her poor decisions and 2, wait for her to change. That's it. She makes the decisions she makes because they work for her somehow and until she is ready to start making different decisions there's not much else you can do."

So if you can't change a person, what are you to do when you're forced to watch someone you love walk down a dangerous path? Truthfully, trying to show someone the error of their ways is a lot harder than you think. For starters, you oughta consider whether or not their ways are actually bad. There's a difference between spending all your money on designer clothing and having none to pay the bills, and spending all your extra money on designer clothing, but still maintaining your household and taking care of your responsibilities. One is clearly a bad idea, the other is a sign of priorities.

My mother likes to tell me, "if I had half the money you've spent on gadgets, I could probably put a down payment on a brand new car." And I love to respond, "you could also do the same thing if you had half the money you've spent on shoes." Different priorities do not = bad choices. We'll touch on this at a later point, but it is relevant now. Begin by making sure the other person actually NEEDS to change.

And if you determine their decision-making (or whatever) is truly detrimental, the most you can do is tell them you think that way. Give them the information and then let them think about it. I don't watch Intervention, anymore, but when I did I always noted how during the intervention, family members would read from prompt sheets that often began with "your addiction has negatively effected me in the following ways..." The interventions were most often about providing perspective, showing an addict that their selfish choices were actually hurting a lot of other people and then... waiting. Giving them the information, their options and letting them make the final choice.

These things won't always turn out the way you hope. Some people just need perspective, but others need a whole paradigm shift and you, if you're focused on yourself and being a great you, don't have time to provide whole paradigm shifts. If you have someone in your life making poor choices that are effecting you or that you figure probably will sooner or later, let 'em know, let 'em decide and then, if you have to, keep it moving. But don't waste one moment trying to change them. They, like you, have every right to make their own decisions without your trying to make them be different.

6 months ago, I had to have a couple of very difficult conversations. I had come to the conclusion that there were some folks in my life making decisions about our relationships that I didn't like and I realized it came down to who they were. They were operating from a mindset that I just did not agree with and so I decided to end our relationship. In one case, the other person seemed to be truly shocked at how I felt and expressed a willingness to change. I didn't go into the conversation trying to manipulate their decision, but because I showed them how their choices were hurting me they were willing to make different choices. But they didn't draw that conclusion simply because I was upset, though that was a major factor. They also saw how their choices were hurting themselves and that, my friends, was the real influence.

Tomorrow's post: Life Lesson 2: Defining Happiness For Yourself


19 Life Lessons You Should've Learned By Now

Four years ago, I wrote a series titled "25 Things You Should Never Apologize For" I pulled each blog's subject from an email fwd I received a year or so prior. It helped me finish out 2009 pretty strong with several posts through the months of Nov and Dec.

I don't post here as much as I used to, and I don't know that that's a bad thing. However, I did stumble across this list, "19 Life Lessons You Should've Learned By Now" and I got an itch to do another series.

So, beginning Monday, check back for the first post, "You either have to accept people for who they are or not at all because changing them will be next to impossible."